MATTOON — The Lake Land women’s basketball team has faced some good competition so far this season, but it was nothing like what Wabash Valley brought to the table on Wednesday.
The Warriors came into the game with a 6-1 record and were ranked No. 14 in the latest NJCAA Division I poll.
The young Lady Lakers squad stuck with Wabash Valley for most of the first quarter when a run at the end of the opening period gave Wabash Valley a five-point lead.
That was the closest the Lady Lakers got to Wabash Valley the rest of the way. The Warriors pulled away in the second half and built a double-digit lead. By the end of the third quarter, it was a 20-point lead.
At the end of the game, the 14th-ranked Warriors came away with a 104-61 win.
“They are extremely talented and deep and they play a physical style defense,” Lake Land coach Dave Johnson said. “If that will be allowed, that’s going to be a very strong component for them. We just had difficulty getting off cuts and we had difficulty getting into our sets.”
Wabash Valley improves to 7-1 on the season, including 2-0 in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, and Lake Land falls to 5-3 and 1-2 in the GRAC. Lake Land hosts Lewis & Clark at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
Johnson said the game was a good learning experience for his young team, especially defensively.
“We will learn from this and we have to get better at communicating on defense, that’s a lot of our issues defensively, is communication,” Johnson said. “I said in the preseason, that’s the thing that concerns me. Our kids are learning and we did a really good job against the press and they pulled that off early. That’s something that hurt us early, so that’s a positive for us.”
The Lady Lakers were outrebounded 45-19 in the game. Wabash Valley used its distinct height advantage with two 6-4 players and three 6-0 players and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds.
“A lot of it is you have to block out all five players, but it doesn’t hurt to be 6-4,” Johnson said. “They shot a lot of close-in shots and it leads to the 51 percent they shot from the field.”
Jamie Sandschaefer led Lake Land with 18 points, Koty Crowder had 16 points and Avery Jackson had 15 points for Lake Land.
“Jamie played an excellent game for us tonight, 7-of-8 from the field. She’s making tremendous strides and adapting,” Johnson said. “Avery is adapting. Freshmen are going to have good games and they are going to have bad games. That’s just part of being a freshman. Doesn’t matter if it’s a two-year or four-year school. As a freshman, it’s a world of difference from high school basketball.”
Wabash Valley scored the first four points of the game. Lake Land tied the game on back-to-back 3-pointers by Sandschaefer and Crowder to make it 6-6.
The two teams traded buckets until Crowder hit a 3-pointer and a bucket by Zyah Burnett gave the Lady Lakers a 19-16 lead.
The advantage was short-lived for Lake Land, though. Wabash Valley went on an 8-0 run in the final 1:39 of the first quarter to take a 24-19 lead.
“We shot the ball well in the first half, which kept us in it for a while,” Johnson said. “We struggled at the end of the first quarter. … We are just going to have to do a better job of running sets.”
Lake Land’s offense struggled in the second quarter and only had 11 points in almost 7 minutes. The Warriors took advantage. A 5-0 run gave Wabash Valley a double-digit lead for the first time in the game at 35-22 with 6:25 remaining in the half. A 6-0 run a few minutes later put Wabash Valley up 43-27.
Crowder hit a couple of 3-pointers to keep the game within reach as Lake Land went into halftime down 47-33.
The Lady Lakers shot 44.4 percent (12-of-27) but had 11 turnovers. Wabash Valley shot 51.5 percent in the half. Plus the Warriors added 12 points from the free-throw line in the first half.
The second half didn’t get any better for the Lady Lakers. Wabash Valley held Lake Land to only four points in the first 4 minutes of the half and jumped out to a 59-36 lead.
The Warriors ended up outscoring Lake Land 26-14 in the third quarter for a 73-48 advantage.
The onslaught didn’t stop in the fourth quarter as Wabash Valley had its highest-scoring period with 31 points and went on to win 104-61.